A Kalaheo Landmark Love Story

Kalaheo Steak & Ribs’ Caroline Frederiksen and Ernie Kanekoa

Caroline Frederiksen and Ernie Kanekoa’s restaurant, Kalaheo Steak & Ribs, is an evolving story of love between them, their employees, the Kalaheo community and everyone who dines there.

It’s also a place where staff members grow to become more than they knew possible, where residents and visitors instantly feel comfortable in the casual Western-themed environment and where the food is fabulous and hearty.

Frederiksen and Kanekoa opened KS&R in January in the spot where Kalaheo Steak House stood for many years.

“We’d been eating here for 25 years. It has been a Kalaheo landmark for decades and we feel privileged to have the opportunity to take it into the next generation,” says Frederiksen.

The owners have integrated their employees in the process, most notably by trusting Rufino Ramos, 23, and Quinton Alvarado, 25, to prepare all the food. The results are a diner’s delight. The young men cook with the talent of seasoned professionals.

St. Louis-cut Pork Ribs, au gratin potatoes and island-style coleslaw

“From the time the restaurant opened its doors, we knew they had hidden talents, as they created dishes and sauces on their own using some of their talents learned throughout years of culinary training,” Frederiksen says. “As the restaurant grows, so will they. This is a great stepping stone for both of them. Ernie and I are so proud of them.”

Another talented employee, server Dee Ford, makes the delectable cheesecakes featured on the restaurant’s dessert menu. “We love to give our employees the opportunity to show their God-given talents and add their specialties to the menu,” Frederiksen explains.

The owners support local agriculture, buying some of their beef from A’akukui Ranch on Kaua’i and purchasing fresh local produce from Sheldonia Organic Farms and from vendors at the Saturday farmers market at Kaua’i Community College.

The food at Kalaheo Steak & Ribs is delicious and the portions are a healthy size. My friend Helen and I enjoyed everything we were served by our attentive and delightful server Zech Fuller.

We began with the Sampler Platter pupu, a wonderful appetizer for which you can choose three items from a selection of ahi sashimi, poke, shrimp cocktail, steak and veggie skewers, potato skins, sautéed mushrooms and calamari steak.

Ahhh, the calamari steak: my new favorite. It’s a tender piece of calamari, lightly breaded, sliced and served in a decadent lemon caper cream sauce that I’d have liked to eat by the spoonful. We also chose the sautéed mushrooms and potato skins, both of which were quite tasty.

Chefs Rufino Ramos (left) and
Quinton Alvarado

Our entrees were the St. Louis Cut Pork Ribs with cranberry hickory barbecue sauce, and sautéed fresh ono, which was a special that night. Both were mouth-wateringly delicious. The fish was cooked to perfection: moist, nicely seasoned and served with sautéed tomatoes and slim green beans that were just the right combination of crisp-tender.

The ribs were as flavorful, tender and meaty as ribs should always be. They were served with a yummy and refreshing island-style coleslaw that included pieces of pineapple, and a baked potato with all the trimmings.

For dessert we chose a piece of mango lilikoi pie made by The Right Slice, a Kaua’i business owned by Sandy and John Poehnelt. As anyone who has eaten pies from The Right Slice knows, they are chock full of fresh ingredients. Ours looked and tasted like it contained an entire mango.

After dinner I went into the kitchen to meet the talented young chefs, and was surprised to see Kanekoa washing dishes. Frederiksen says everyone shares in the work at KS&R.

Kanekoa, who owned Banyan Tree restaurant in Kapa’a in the 1980s and who also has worked for a number of well-known restaurants and hotels for many years on Oahu, tells us that he once was a fire dancer with Don Ho.

Ernie Kanekoa dresses a baked potato while Helen Bice looks on

“Are you going to give us a demonstration?” Helen asks.

“That was a long time ago,” Kanekoa says with a chuckle.

The couple is looking forward to welcoming customers to the sports bar they are building as an expansion off the entrance side of the restaurant. Look for a midto late-October opening with a menu including a signature burger, smoked wings, more local food and events such as open mic, karaoke and “an affordable breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays for football season,” Frederiksen says. “It’s what the people of Kalaheo wanted.”

Bar manager Grace Lord will oversee the operation of the sports bar.

Another popular addition is wine night on Saturdays, with bottles of good quality wine available for under $20.

As the restaurant evolves and responds to customer requests, the community’s response in return has been tremendous, Frederiksen says. “The people of Kalaheo and Kaua’i have been so good to us. We’re blessed, we’re really blessed.”

Kalaheo Steak & Ribs; 4444 Papalina Road, Kalaheo, is open Tuesday through Sunday with Happy Hour from 4 to 6 p.m.; early bird dinner specials including dessert from 5 to 6 p.m.; and dinner from 5 to 9:30 p.m. A la carte and sides $4 to $8; pupu, soups and salads $8 to $18; entrees $16 to $35; keiki menu also is available. Eat in or take out. Call 332-4444.

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